Portugal's Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, joined hundreds of local and regional leaders in a discussion about the future of Europe. During the debate held with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Prime Minister said that Europe must urgently change course to respond to global competition by tackling regional disparities, increasing member states' contributions to the EU budget, strengthening regional investment and engaging every level of government.
The Prime Minister said the EU must prioritise social cohesion and convergence between regions and cities. Prime Minister Costa, a former member of the CoR, called for an increase in the EU budget, saying that 1% of GNI was not enough: "In a globalised world Europe requires more cohesion and a more competitive economy. To respond to new challenges, we must not weaken the foundations of our Union, such as the Common Agricultural Policy or Cohesion Policy. We have the ambition and we have the policies. If we want a stronger Union which is more resilient to crises and more prepared for new challenges, we must have a Union with more resources."
Speaking during the debate held in the CoR's plenary, its President, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, agreed, saying: "We all have a responsibility to put Europe back on a path of balanced economic growth. Social, economic and territorial cohesion are the DNA of our Union, but we need more regional and rural investment. The next EU budget will shape where Europe goes next, which is why member states must strengthen, not reduce, regions' and cities' financial means to create jobs and deepen European integration."
With the European Committee of the Regions together with territorial associations championing EU regional investment in the next EU budget through the EU-wide #CohesionAlliance , Prime Minister Costa also made the case for a strong cohesion policy. "With cohesion policy, Europe has reached every village, every city, every town and every European street," he said. "That is why cohesion cannot and should not be the adjustment variable for the next Multiannual Financial Framework."
During the debate, members of the European Committee of the Regions – the EU's assembly of local and regional leaders – expressed support for the Prime Minister's vision. They said they recognised the need to renew Europe's economy through strengthening territorial cohesion, infrastructure and environmental sustainability. This, they agreed, needed the EU to pay greater attention to role and impact of local and regional authorities, which are responsible not only for driving regional economies, but also for articulating the concerns of voters and for uniting communities behind EU policies.
The Portuguese Prime Minister also added that there was an urgency to complete the European Monetary Union: "The structural weaknesses of the Eurozone remain unresolved. As long as the Economic and Monetary Union remains incomplete, the risk of further crises remains. That is why I have been advocating for the creation of a euro-zone budget based on own resources."
The debate contributes to the Committee's Reflecting on Europe initiative where its members are holding hundreds of citizen's debates across Europe the content of which will accumulate in a report to be submitted to the European Council later this year.
To make the case for a strong cohesion policy for all regions and cities after 2020, the Committee together with leading EU territorial associations launched the #CohesionAlliance : a grass-roots movement open to anyone who believes that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. Since its launch in October last year, the Alliance has continued to attract new signatories every day, including regional and local authorities, MEPs, business associations, academia, trade unions and think tanks
The debate can be re-watched on EbS . Photos are available for downloading for free.
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